In Between
Thursday of Pentecost 24
3 November 2016
The larger historical context in which the gospel supersedes the law is replayed in the daily life of every believer. Yes, Christ comes to fulfill the law and make it moot before the court of divine justice. This is the argument that was had at the cross when life and death contended. Life triumphed. This is the decisive end of the law of God in time, killed in the life and death of Christ. But that does not mean the law is no longer in the world.
 
We Christians still daily feel the law's load in our lives. We know the burden of guilt with which the decisive "thou shalts" assault our hearts and minds. We feel the struggle as we peer into the limpid pool of God's law. We may feel that crass sins have been defeated. But that only serves to point out our weakness in spiritual sin. We have not loved, trusted in, nor feared God above all things. Our hearts are constantly shown up as set upon the things of this world; making false gods of the things in it, and losing sight of the One who gives the world and everything in it. We fail to repent when convicted of our sin and in that reluctance we imply that we don't believe in the power of God to forgive sinners like me. This is just another indictment of our weakness in the face of the law which convicts and of our paltry faith when so convicted.
 
Thus the battle goes on until time comes to its full and complete end at the last trumpet. We are living in the "in between" time until the judgment. In that time the heart is the battlefield of law and gospel, God's wrath and God's grace. Because of law and gospel, we find ourselves with a foot in each of two kingdoms and under two regimes. We live in the world and under the law because we are in the world. We live by the gospel because we are Christ's, redeemed by His blood and members of His body the church. Until this age is brought to its conclusion, we will live in this ambivalence; in the world, and not of it; under the law, but not redeemed by it; oppressed, and yet free. So we live in the in between times. Luther talks about this life "in between" when he comments on, "Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed" (Gal 3:23). Our daily life is caught up in this battle between law and gospel.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 

"Paul is referring to the time of fulfillment (Gal 3:23), when Christ came. But you should apply it not only to the time but also to feelings; for what happened historically and temporally when Christ came-namely, that He abrogated the Law and brought liberty and eternal life to light-this happens personally and spiritually every day in any Christian, in whom there are found the time of Law and the time of grace in constant alternation. The Christian has a body, in whose members, as Paul says (Rm 7:23), the Law and sin are at war. By sin I understand not only lust but all of sin, as Paul usually speaks about sin, saying that it not only still clings to a flesh that is Christian and baptized, but that it battles against it and captures it, producing at least a powerful urge, if not actual assent or action. Even though a Christian does not fall into coarse sins like murder, adultery, or theft, he still is not free of impatience, grumbling, hatred, and blasphemy against God-sins that are completely unknown to the human reason. They force him against his will to despise the Law; they force him to flee from the countenance of God; they force him to hate and blaspheme God. For just as sexual desire is powerful in the body of the young man, and just as the ambition to gain glory and possessions is powerful in the mature man, and just as greed is powerful in the old man, so in the saintly man impatience, grumbling, hate, and blasphemy against God are powerful. There are examples of this throughout the Psalms, Job, Jeremiah, and all Scripture. Therefore, when Paul describes this spiritual struggle, he uses very emphatic and meaningful terms like 'being at war,' 'fighting back,' and 'making captive.'

 

"In the experience of the Christian, therefore, both are found, the time of law and the time of grace. The time of law is when the law disciplines, vexes, and saddens me, when it brings me to a knowledge of sin and increases this. Then the law is being employed in its true use, which a Christian experiences constantly as long as he lives. Thus Paul was given 'a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass him' (2Cor 12:7). He wished that he could feel, for a single moment, the joy of the conscience, the happiness of the heart, and a foretaste of eternal life. He also wished that he could be rid of the disturbance of the spirit. Therefore, he requested that this trial be taken away from him. This did not happen, but he heard from the Lord: 'Paul, my grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness' (2Co 12:9). Every Christian experiences the same struggle.

 

"There are many hours in which I dispute with God and fight back at Him impatiently. The wrath and judgment of God are displeasing to me. On the other hand, my impatience and grumbling are displeasing to Him. This is the time of Law, under which a Christian always exists according to the flesh. 'For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other,' as chapter five says below (Gal 5:17)."


Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.23
Galatians 3:21-29

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
 
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
(ESV)
Prayer
Lord, as I feel the battle between law and gospel in my heart, comfort me with the knowledge that though the battle rages in between times, it is over in You. Amen.
 
For William Heine, who is ill at home, that the holy angels would surround his sickbed and that he would be comforted by the power of the holy gospel, which gives life and salvation
 
For all shut ins, especially Pearl White, Lois Vaughn, Ed Jutzi, James Weaver, Helen Weaver, Anita Markwardt, Rita Baker, Marie Hoyer, Jane Twietmeyer, Lucile Herter, and William Heine, that they might repose in the care of Christ their Lord

For the growing Lutheran community in Madagascar, that God the Lord might be with them and enable them to catechize God's people
 
For all political candidates, that they would not consider the things of this world as ultimate and that they would uphold decency and good order as a protection of goods far beyond what could be provided by government
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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